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by Jeff Matthews

An ETNA-Libera Committee has been formed with the goal of modifying the restrictions that limit access to the summit of Italy's highest volcano, Mt. Etna. There was a meeting and demonstration on July 10 in Nicolosi to reopen the summit of Etna to tourism and hikers. The demonstration was promoted by those who have had the most to lose by recent restrictions that keep tourists at lower elevations; that is, tour operators, shop keepers, and interestingly, simple citizens who live on the slopes. The committee is requesting modifications to a 2013 decree from the Regional Department of Civil Defense that forbids access to the higher elevations by anyone not accompanied by trained personnel or unless there is no volcanic activity, whatsoever, (that is almost never the case on Etna). Note the last point; the decree is absolute in the cases of ongoing eruptions or lava flows, which, according to the committee, interferes with the “centuries-old physical and emotional relationship that the people of Mt. Etna have always had with the volcano.” Indeed, they often approach the lava front. The decree, according to the committee, is also in violation of UNESCO's policy on World Heritage Sites (of which Mt. Etna is one) that declares that such sites should be made as available as possible. The Etna-Libera committee further asks that the Etna Park administration again resume its tutelage of the volcano, resuming its responsibility for controlling access, increasing the amount of information available to visitors, and providing for emergency plans.

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